The economics of education: The financing of the Swedish elementary school, 1842–1936

The economics of education: The financing of the Swedish elementary school, 1842–1936

During the hundred years that followed the Elementary school act of 1842, the Swedish elementary school system went through an unparalleled development. The number of students doubled from 270 000 in the year 1850 to 605 000 in the year 1950. At the same time the number of teachers rose from 3 500 to 27 500. As a result the costs of the elementary school increased dramatically. Between 1874 and 1942 the expenditures increased from 14 to 268 millions of Swedish kronor, counted in the money value of 1942.

This project deals with the economics of this remarkable development. How was the funding system of these schools designed, in order to cope with expenses that rose nineteen times? How was funds created and distributed in order to finance the increase of the number of teachers? What consequences did such a funding system have for the instruction of the elementary schools? Anglo-Saxon research has shown that the answers to these questions are far from simple. Financing a school system involves balancing demands for higher quality of education with ambitions to keep check of already high costs. It is also a question of choosing between different forms of grants and objects (teacher salaries, school books, schoolhouses etc.). How such decisions were made are the central questions of this project.

Collaborators: Johannes Westberg (director), Esbjörn Larsson, Madeleine Michaelsson, Magnus Svensson, Germund Larsson
Department of Education & Department of History, Uppsala University
Funding body: Swedish Research Council, Handelsbanken research council
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